BUILDING work to transform the historic Guisborough Town Hall has started.

The Grade II-listed building is to be restored and adapted into visitor accommodation with a high-quality finish on the top two floors, as well as housing heritage and visitor information and a retail outlet on the ground floor. More than £1.1m was granted from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for the project, and £300,000 from the Tees Valley mayor and Combined Authority.

Work has started on site and Hall Construction Ltd has been appointed as the principal contractor. Construction sites will continue to operate during the current lockdown announced by the Prime Minister on Monday, January 4.

The building is expected to be completed this autumn. For the duration of the works, the footpath and crossing in front of the Town Hall will be closed, but a signposted diversion will be in place. Parking in Bakehouse Square will be suspended but businesses will remain trading, lockdown permitted.

The historic building, which forms the centrepiece of Guisborough's Market Place, was built in 1821 on the site of a toll booth. It has had many uses from Magistrates Office and Petty Sessions Court to most recently being solicitors offices.

It has stood empty since 2013 and was bought by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council for £70,000 in 2015. The Guisborough Town Hall Gateway Project (GTHGP) was established in 2016 as a partnership between the community and the council to secure its future. The community group involved has now formed a Community Interest Company and are gearing up to operate the heritage and information centre on the ground floor.

The council is currently inviting enquiries from operators who are interested in the visitor accommodation on the upper floors and those interested in leasing any of the marketed spaces in the building.

David Renwick of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Investing in heritage means investing in the community it belongs to, which is why we are proud to support Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council to restore Guisborough Town Hall. We are also very glad to see our investment being complemented by funding from the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority.

"Thanks to National Lottery players, this will not only preserve this important heritage to be enjoyed by locals and visitors from further afield but will also play a significant role in boosting the local economy and aiding the wider regeneration of Guisborough."

Councillor Wayne Davies, council cabinet member for economic development, said: “It's fantastic that the people of Guisborough will be able to see progress being made on site for this project. Our ambition is to develop Guisborough into a visitor destination. It is a gateway to the North York Moors which will attract additional footfall and overnight visitors who will spend locally in the shops and businesses. The revamped town hall will serve both the communities of Guisborough as well as visitors to the town and the wider region. I know this project was very close to Cllr Dennis Teasdale's heart, who sadly passed away last year. It is a testament to his efforts, and those in the GTHGP group, that such significant progress has been made."

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said: “Guisborough Town Hall is a beautiful and much-loved historic building and I'm delighted to be able to help restore and redevelop it so that it has a new lease of life. When completed by local firm Hall Construction, this will be a real asset for Guisborough, ready to boost the region's wider tourism and leisure offer following the coronavirus pandemic. It's just another example of how we're investing in our towns to deliver real improvements to the lives of local people."

Andy Murray, chairman of Guisborough Town Hall CIC, added: "I am very happy that all of the hard work to date has resulted in the commencement of building work. In these challenging Covid times, Guisborough needs good news stories and I can say that in autumn 2021, all the building work will be completed. The Guisborough Town Hall CIC which consists of highly motivated local people is now gearing up to turn this iconic Grade-II listed building into an asset for the town, promoting the heritage and history of our ancient past.

"The board expects the town hall to become a major asset to the town as it seeks to promote tourism and welcome its visitors to bide a while before exploring the town's heritage, retail offerings and the North York Moors.

"I and my late vice chair Dennis Teasdale considered ourselves privileged to have worked with such enthusiastic and committed local people to get the project to its current state."